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EU’s top diplomats ‘to discuss toolbox of Turkey options broader than sanctions’

France has sent three Rafale fighter jets and a warship to take part in eastern Mediterranean military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus.
France has sent three Rafale fighter jets and a warship to take part in eastern Mediterranean military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell is to present a toolbox of options broader than sanctions for Turkey, Brussels officials have briefed media.

Foreign ministers of EU member states will meet in Berlin on 27-28 August and Borrell will present the options available to the EU to deal with Turkey in terms of the gas drilling it is conducting in the eastern Mediterranean, seen as illegal by the bloc, its lack of cooperation in migration issues and controversial military involvement in the Libya and Syria conflicts.

Alleging Turkey is encroaching on its continental shelf in its search for gas and oil, Greece has asked for sectorial sanctions that hit Turkish banks, according to one EU official who spoke with Euractive, adding that the executive’s proposed options “will be something broader than sanctions”.

The same official reportedly emphasised that the EU has already cut a lot of EU pre-accession funds that were earmarked for Ankara and added that one member state has asked for the full withdrawal of Turkey’s EU membership prospects.

The Berlin meeting is not expected to progress beyond in-depth discussion.

The visits paid by German foreign minister Heiko Maas to Athens and Ankara on August 25 did not bring dependable results. Greece has said Turkey is unreliable when it comes to dialogue over issues such as rights to explore for hydrocarbons, while Turkey continues to threaten military action if its exploration faces interference.

Military exercises

Events on August 26 added tension to the standoff, with France opting to join military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean that will run to August 28.

“The eastern Mediterranean is turning into an area of tension. Respect for international law must be the rule and not the exception,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Twitter, adding that it “should not be a playground for the ambitions of some”.

Three Rafale fighter jets and a warship equipped with a helicopter will be part of the joint military exercises, she said.

“Our message is simple: priority to dialogue, cooperation and diplomacy so that the Eastern Mediterranean becomes an area of stability and respect for international law,” Parly added.

In his latest comments on the row, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was determined to do whatever is necessary to obtain its rights in the Black Sea, Aegean and Mediterranean.

"We will not compromise over what belongs to us ...We are determined to do whatever is necessary," Erdogan said.

Speaking at an event commemorating the 11th century military victory by Seljuk Turks over the Byzantine empire at Malazgirt, Erdogan also called on Ankara's counterparts to avoid mistakes that he said would bring their destruction, Reuters reported.

"If there is anyone who wants to pay the price, they are welcome to confront us. If not then they should go away so we can handle our own business," Erdogan also said.